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Israeli Merkava Mk.3 tank equipped with anti-drone cage

The Israeli army has introduced an innovation to its Merkava Mk.3 tanks: an anti-drone cage, likely produced in a factory. This development reminds us of another conflict in which we witnessed the emergence of drones and, consequently, the introduction of anti-drone systems like this type of cage, typically produced in a more "artisanal" manner. Here, it appears to be a machined production, indicating that the Israelis have learned lessons from the war in Ukraine.
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The Israeli army has introduced an innovation to its Merkava Mk.3 tanks: an anti-drone cage, likely produced in a factory. (Picture source: Chinese media agency)

A machined anti-drone cage is relatively rare, but it's not surprising given the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The Israeli armed forces have equipped one of their Merkava MK.3 tanks with this cage, which is not unexpected. But first, what is a Merkava Mk.3?

The development of the Israeli army's Merkava Mk.3 tank, designed by Israel Military Industries, represents a remarkable advancement in armored vehicle technology. Introduced in the early 1990s, the Merkava Mk.3 marked a significant leap from its predecessors, the Mk.1 and Mk.2.

The Merkava development program began in the 1970s, following the cancellation by the United Kingdom of plans to locally produce the British Chieftain tank for Israel. Israel then decided to develop its main battle tank. The first model, the Merkava Mk.1, was introduced into service in 1979. This tank was designed with crew protection as a top priority, featuring reinforced armor and an engine placed at the front, unlike most other tanks.

The Mk.3, introduced in 1989, incorporated a modular armor concept, allowing for quick and frequent adaptation of armor to operational needs and emerging threats. It was equipped with a new 120mm gun manufactured by IMI and a new 900-horsepower diesel engine developed by the German firm MTU. The Mk.3 also featured ballistic protection provided by easily replaceable special armor modules and an advanced fire control system developed by El-Op. Both the turret and hull had modular armor systems that could be modified in the field.

The Merkava Mk.3, with its armament including a 120mm smoothbore gun, three 7.62mm machine guns, an internal 60mm mortar, and reinforced protection, represents a powerful combination of firepower and defense. Weighing 65 tons and capable of reaching speeds of 60 km/h, its modular design provides increased protection. Equipped with advanced systems such as computerized fire control, NBC protection, and thermal night vision, it has an operational range of 500 km and can accommodate a crew of four. Its dimensions are 7.60 meters in length, 3.70 meters in width, and 2.65 meters in height.

The addition of an anti-drone cage to the Merkava Mk.3 marks a significant step in adapting to modern threats. Drones, which have become common in contemporary conflicts, can be used for precise attacks or surveillance. The cage is designed to protect the tank against these aerial threats, especially drones equipped with explosives. It should be noted that the protection does not shield against FPVs (First-Person View), but it doesn't obstruct the view or exit of the vehicle.

This innovation appears to be a response to tactics used by groups such as Hamas, which have started to integrate drones into their arsenal. Although the use of drones by Hamas is relatively recent, the inspiration for such tactics likely comes from conflicts where drones have been used more intensively, as seen in Ukraine.

The introduction of the anti-drone cage on the Merkava Mk.3 is a step in the evolution of armored warfare. It reflects the need to adapt to asymmetric threats and demonstrates that even traditional weapons like tanks must evolve to remain relevant on modern battlefields. It also underscores the increasing importance of anti-drone technologies in contemporary defense strategies.


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